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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Fire fighting earns Aussie plaudits

December 18
The efforts put up by our New Zealand Fire Fighters in Australia's Victoria fires aren't going unnoticed.

NZ Fire Service National Advisor Maori Piki Thomas says the 40 strong contingent are hugely appreciated by Australian Fire Services.

This follows four of the NZ contingent being hospitalised after receiving serious harm injuries while battling raging flames near Walhalla.

“The guys that go across there are doing themselves and their organisation and the country proud. Out Australian sister service absolutely appreciates the contribution we can make to not only stem the flow of these fire but allow their staff a bit of downtime,” Mr Thomas says.

Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker will visit NZ Rural Fire Service personnel in Victoria tomorrow, and also injured men in Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.


A major contributor to the renaissance of te reo Maori says an award from Victoria University, is an acknowledgment of many people’s efforts.

Iritana Tawhiwhirangi was presented with an honorary doctorate from the Welington-based university, for the work she has done promoting te reo over the past 25 years.

She was instrumental in the setting up of the Kohanga Reo movement, and went on serves as chief executive of Kohanga Reo National Trust.

Mrs Tawhiwirangi says she was humbled by the university's acknowledgement.

“My great interest is policy. I was there in 1977 with Tu Tangata and then Maatua Whangai and the kokiri centres and all the rest of it, so that was really my forte. I was just lucky that in 1982 when kohanga started I was in place to have an important and interesting role,” Mrs Tawhiwhirangi says.


A Hokianga based Maori tourism operator says increased capacity on flights into the area next year is an opportunity to market the area more effectively.

Shane Lloyd is the general manager of the Copthorne Hokianga, at Opononi.

He is also a director of Hokianga Crossing, a new ecotourism business.

Mr Lloyd says while there has been talk of extending runways at both Whangarei and Kaitaia airports to entice more tourists to the region, Kerikeri is best suited to spark tourism in the area.

“Right now our best opportunity is Kerikeri. It feeds into the biggest accommodation areas. We’ve got a 52 seater coming into Kerikeri next year, and it’s how best do we work those opportunities with that sort of plane coming in,” Mr Lloyd says.


The deputy leader of the National Party says Maori are in a strong position politically and are likely to take the political centre ground in the future.

Bill English says other minor parties have a limited lifespan, unlike the Maori Party.

The former Leader and National party spokesperson on education says in their first year in parliament the Maori party have been consistent advocates for Maori, and have assumed the political centre ground.

“The current parties we have in the centre don’t have any reason to exist except their leaders. When (Jim) Anderton goes, Progressive goes. When Peter Dunne goes and Winston Peters goes, their parties just disappear. But the Maori Party has a reason to exist independent of its leadership. It’s always seemed to me that if Maori voters play their cards right, they get to have a significant influence on every government,” Mr English says.


The Office of Treaty Settlements says there are only a few areas that are not covered by historical claims.

The Maori Purposes Bill this month put a deadline of September 2008 for lodging historical claims.

The government had set a target of 2020 for settling all claims.

The Office of Treaty settlements manager of Policy and negotiations, Dean Cowie, says there are only a few areas in the lower north island where claims haven't been lodged.

He says a number of other claims are near completion, including Ngati Whatua o Orakei, Te Arawa and Te Rarawa.

“We’re dealing with several negotiations at the moment which are likely to reach agreement in the first six months of next year. Upwards of four or five groups that may reach that point as long as there is agreement reached between the parties,” Mr Cowie says.


Retiring Labour list MP, Georgina Beyer, says she has been proud to represent the gay community in Parliament.

She says the New Zealand public has shown maturity by supporting her parliamentary career.

The former MP for Wairarapa and Mayor of Carterton will give her valedictory speech early next year before quitting as an MP.

She is considering a run for the Wellington mayoralty.

Ms Beyer says providing a political voice for takataapui, those in the Maori gay community, has been a privilege.

“Takatapui wise, it has been important for them to have someone who is visible but just the thought that here we are a M drag queen become a woman and then went on to do this shows we live in a fantastic country and democracy,” Ms Beyer says.


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